By Mick Palmer
Of course the story of the Croft weekend in 2022 was the ‘comeback king’ Dan Lloyd. After taking the opening race in spectacular fashion with a ‘he has huge bollocks’ overtaking move for the lead, through the Jim Clark Esses. The Yorkshire lad was in bits when he took his helmet off post-race. So were his family and some team members – naturally. During the advert break for the ITV coverage veteran pit reporter Louise Goodman admitted that she too was having an emotional moment, but ever the pro she kept it together when the show came back to air.
Team Dynamics Gaffer and former champion Matt Neal quipped that the gap between Dan Rowbottom on the second row, and Gordon Shedden at the very back on the race two grid equalled the ‘distance to Oulton Park’ from the North Yorkshire circuit. At that point even he couldn’t have foreseen the massive turnaround in fortunes that his two drivers would have by the end of race three. An early out for Rowbo and a win for Flash was not on the cards as the BTCC legend stood on the grid before the race.
The weather was sticky and warm meaning that drivers were rarely seen without some form of drink to hand across the weekend. The need to keep hydrated, to help keep the mind on the job with various healthy concoctions resulted in the need to pee. We can confirm that one driver (who will remain nameless here) was happy to let it flow during one race (with their crew pointing out that in future they’ll only accept that – or a whoopsy – in future if it comes with a win.) It did however result in a couple of drivers hitting the track after their team mates thanks to being caught short and having to skip to the pubic lavatories thanks to the lack of facilities in hospitality and the pitlane.
Carl Boardley didn’t officially hit the track at the weekend. Except he did, unofficially-ish. The former Infiniti Q50 driver returned to replace Rick Parfitt Jr – who was getting stuck into the Rock rather then Race element of his career. Boardley – who owns two TBL entries – was due to run the machine he campaigned in 2021 as a one off, but was withdrawn on medical grounds. He did get the car on track (while wearing his old colourful TEAM HARD racesuit.) The car exited assembly at Turn One during the Friday evening shakedown session, but came to a halt two corners later on the inside of the chicane…..
The delay for race two saw a panicked, but welcome, respite for Motorbase. As the pitlane based cars rolled out onto the apron ready for the second encounter of the day the #44 of Ollie Jackson remained in the garage on stilts being repaired. The Tower Corner misfortune in the preceding F4 race caused a delay long enough for the team to put the finishing touches on a front end rebuild after he was nerffed off at Sunny Out in Race One. How did he repay the outfit? By taking six positions on the opening lap of a race he wouldn’t have started if it had kicked off on time.
Five Goodwood stars came in by helicopter just after a rainstorm hit the circuit before shakedown on Friday. Jason Plato, Adam Morgan, Dan Cammish and Josh Cook had been on BTCC duty at the Festival of Speed, and James Gornall had been working with other commitments at the event down on the South Coast. The posse flew in while the BTCC contingent were suited and booted ready for the get go. The quintet made a dash to change and get in the cars before the green light – making it on time as 27 of the 29 entered cars took advantage of the session. The absentees? Stephen Jelly and Jake Hill. Colin Turkington hit the circuit to shakedown old Chassis #1 that’s standing in for his damaged 2022 car. One last chance to see if the hurried hybrid install was all fine? Would WSR have sat that car out too if it hadn’t been damaged at Oulton? That question didn’t get an answer!
How many Touring Car Champions were at Croft? Four? Five? We counted eight.
Ash Sutton, Jason Plato, Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden were on track with 12 BTCC titles between them. On the sidelines Matt Neal added his three. You can throw in the 2018 TCR UK title won by Dan Lloyd to that as well. Oh, and the other crowns from the Neal and Turkington tribes. Henry Neal, winner of both the 2019 and 2020 Touring Car Trophy – in the machine his Dad campaigned from 2013 to 2017, and the 2019 TCR UK title winner James Turkington (who ran with Ciceley in the TCT.) Both are drivers that MRUK predicted would arrive in the BTCC by now, but alas Covid and the associated financial constraints have hampered both from progressing. James, who was there supporting his older brother, hasn’t taken a seat since the 2019 season but admitted he’d love to get back to racing if the opportunity arises. Henry, who works as part of the Dynamics squad on the #32 car, should have been moving to the BTCC in 2023 if a deal to run his Dad this year in a third Dynamics car had come to fruition. He hopes to race something, somewhere, during the year. Both would be deserving of a shot in the BTCC. Turkington is one of those drivers with wisdom with an almost Prost like quality of reasoning, whereas his former rival Neal is pure with fearless speed.